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My Ten for the Next Ten

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I so enjoyed Bono’s “Ten for the Next Ten” op-ed piece in last Sunday’s Times that I was inspired to come up with my own version. Bono changed the traditional end-of-year Top Ten list: his “looks forward, not backward,” to developments that might make the world “more interesting, healthy or civil.” I won’t pretend that anything that could happen in the wine industry is on a scale with, say, international peace or addressing climate change (although I do think that if more people drank wine the world would be healthier and more civil). But here are my hopes for the next ten years in California wine.

Wine Experiences its Greatest Renaissance Ever

It’s been astounding to watch America grow into a true wine-drinking culture. Everywhere you look, wine is portrayed as an aspirational drink with lifestyle overtones. That’s good, but we have a long way to go; for many people, wine is still an occasional indulgence rather than an essential part of their day. That could change, but for anything to change in America requires a major force to set it in motion. “Sideways” showed how a movie can be instrumental in driving wine sales. I hope more movies present wine in a positive light. It also would be great if some of America’s cultural heroes from politics, entertainment, industry and sports were more outspoken in support of wine. Why is it that some people seem almost ashamed to talk about their love of wine? (President Obama, I’m talking to you!)

California’s Under-Performing Regions Show Improvement

Paso Robles illustrates how a wine region that was pretty rustic for a long time can get its act together with a lot of hard work. It takes people with dedication and vision, but it can happen. Such places as Temecula, the Sierra Foothills, Livermore Valley and Lodi are large and historic wine districts that for whatever reason haven’t lived up to their potential. They have to figure out their own identity, and there’s no better time than in this new decade, when the old rules are being thrown out and new ones are being written.

Wine’s Health Benefits are Far Greater Than Anyone Thought

I personally believe that a little wine helps promote relaxation and God knows we all need to relax these days. Science also has strongly suggested wine can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. I hope scientists will continue research along these lines, and that the government will support it (instead of getting in the way as they often do), and that Big Pharma will not attempt to block research in order to preserve prescription drug sales. I mean, what would Prozac do if people knew that a glass or two of wine, plus some meditation, exercise and a healthy diet, actually cured their depression?

Wine Blog Writing Gets Seriously Good

Once upon a time all a wine blog needed in order to be taken seriously was to exist. In 2010 that’s no longer true. Winners and losers are starting to emerge, based on talent. Great writing may not be a sufficient guaranty of success for a wine blogger, but it is a necessary one. We’re starting to see strong writing in wine blogs and I hope that over the next several years we’ll see the modern equivalents of the greats be critically recognized.

Anyone in America Can Buy Wine From Any State Through the Internet, Without the Government Getting in the Way

I know what you’re thinking. Dream on, Heimoff. But it’s a good dream. No more state stores, no more interstate shipping hassles, just good old-fashioned competition among brands through low-cost broadband. It could happen.

Quality at an Affordable Price Becomes the Norm

We’re on trickier ground here, because for all of history, people have had to pay more for better wine. But we’re sort of nearing the End of History, aren’t we? At least, it feels that way. With modern revolutions in grapegrowing and winemaking, there’s no reason why the gap between great expensive wines and great inexpensive wines should not continue to narrow. It already is. What that will mean for the traditional way in which we classify wine into hierarchies (a la Bordeaux and Burgundy), I don’t know.

America Lowers Its Drinking Age to 18

It’s so stupid and illogical that Americans can be sent off to fight and die in wars at the age of 18, but they can’t enjoy a beer or wine until they’re 21. This is a relic of our Protestant ethic (in which pleasure is evil) and Prohibition. And please, don’t tell me that lowering the age will result in more car crashes. Idiotic teenagers who drink and drive are not stopped for a second by being underaged.

Corkage Disappears

As long as I’m permitted to dream… There are anecdotal reports that restaurants that drop, or significantly decrease, their corkage fees actually earn more money, because diners are then willing to spend more on appetizers and dessert. Wouldn’t it be great when you can just bring your bottles in with you with no hassles, no fear of being misunderstood or challenged, etc. I’d even be willing to bring my own wine glasses, so the owners wouldn’t have to deal with breakage.

The Rise of Italian Varieties

Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Trebbiano, Montepulciano, Dolcetto, Negroamaro, Refosco, Cortese, Verdicchio, Vermentino, Vernaccia. They make nice wines over in Italy and are fun to pronounce. Why not here? Wouldn’t it be something if they turned into household names in California over the next ten years.

A Whole New Area of California Emerges as Home to Fine Wine

Where could it be? The Far North Coast (Humboldt, Siskyou, Eureka counties)? Some distant corner of the Foothills? On the road to Mammoth? A strip of hill in San Benito County? What about Ventura? You never know in this vast state, but one thing is sure: pioneers, filled with the restless, innovative spirit of risk-taking, will push the boundaries and, on occasion, stun us.

Anyway, that’s my Ten for the Next Ten.

  1. Eureka County?

    :)

    Good list, actually. My only other critique is that while I share the belief that wine drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle, and a greater understanding of how and why would be a good thing, we also need to be honest when looking at the research and not ignore the risks attendant with alcohol consumption.

  2. hi Steve – Got it, I’m on it! (Well, except for the Italian stuff ;)

  3. Congrats, Steve. I think you are right on and that makes for an exciting decade coming up.

  4. Pete: there’s risk associated with everything.

  5. This is a really great post. I would love to see more Italian varieties in CA. We see a bit of this with our wine club membership at Castello di amorosa, and the wines are really excellent.Happy New Year!

  6. “Anyone in America Can Buy Wine From Any State Through the Internet, Without the Government Getting in the Way”

    The importance of this cannot be overstated. If Amazon.com – Amazon.com – decides to throw in the towel on navigating through the treacherous waters of our arcane, state-by-state system, imagine how the small family winery feels, let alone the consumer who would like to buy wine from this small family winery.

    No one involved makes out well on this at present, not the state, federal government, businesses, or consumers. It is a sclerotic system that desperately needs a graft as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. Here’s to fixing it in the next ten!

  7. Steve,
    Right on on the list, except the Italian stuff – just do’nt get how it fits. I would wish for the opposite – maybe as the American wine palate gets refined we will see the emergence and development of regional wines and cuisine as the drivers rather than copycat winemaking (no matter how hard you try you can’t make an Argentinian Malbec in California: we have different climate and we actually pay our vineyard workers…).

    Happy next decade to everyone!

  8. Great column, Steve. I agree with most everything you said, including the part about Temecula not living up to its potential. But we’re sure trying! Wine from our valley just keeps getting better. You need to come on down for a visit…

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